With his newly formed running club, Chancellor Michael R. Lovell has engineered a new management strategy at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee: lead from behind.
The 44-year-old engineer and athlete trailed members of the Panther basketball team during an interval workout Tuesday on the track inside the Klotsche Center. He did the same on their infamous run the hill work on the lakefront earlier in the month.
Still, his efforts have served to unite and motivate UWM faculty, students and local residents.
The chancellor’s running club meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 a.m. for workouts designed by Pete Corfeld, the head coach of the men’s and women’s track and cross-country teams.
“This has been a tremendous boon to me,” said John Becker, a 71-year-old runner who often leads his age group in local events. “It’s 100% the chancellor’s initiative.
“Mike Lovell never misses a workout,” he said.
In fact, Lovell has run every day since he replaced Carlos Santiago and became the interim chancellor, nearly a year ago. The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents removed the interim tag in May.
The Pennsylvania native impressed the UW leadership with his earlier work as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, his collaborative style and his ability to build partnerships across university departments and with local businesses.
His running club, Pete’s Elites, is an extension of that work. He brings together 8 to 10 runners each session, a mix of veterans and rookies.
Ben Blair, a PhD candidate in the School of Freshwater Sciences, appreciates the opportunity to train and meet with fellow runners from various departments in the university.
“It makes me feel a part of it,” said Blair, who spends most of his time miles from campus at the Great Lakes WATER Institute.
Lovell lacks the foot-speed to keep pace with the hoopsters, and the ego to set himself apart from his administrators and students. He is an accomplished but self-deprecating runner, with a marathon best of 2:47. In the 2010 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon he ran a 3:08 and will attempt to improve upon that in the race’s 31st edition on Sunday.
He credits Corfeld’s coaching.
“We’re lucky enough to have a Division 1 coach set it up for us, a group of middle-aged men and women,” Lovell said, catching his breath during a rest between 200-meter sprints. “I’ve improved for the first time since 2005-’06.
The group did 20 of the 200-meter sprints on Tuesday morning, with Lovell chasing the likes of Tony Meier, James Haarsma and Ryan Haggerty. It wasn’t for lack of effort.
The players and coaches seemed to enjoy running with Lovell and the diversion from the usual drudgery of a preseason work out. The group joined hands for a post-workout celebration, in a unique display of camaraderie among engineering professors, basketball players and UWM neighbors.
For Lovell, the workouts provide a chance to meet people and start his work day - one that will extend into the evening - with a bit of stress relief. His first meeting of the day was set to start about 30 minutes after he finished the last sprint, trailing but still pushing ahead.